Australia: QRC Launches Public Awareness Campaign on Reef’s Future
The Queensland Resources Council has launched a public awareness campaign to ‘set the record straight’ on the future of the Great Barrier Reef and the continuing prosperity of more than one million Queenslanders who live and work adjacent to it.
Against a backdrop of the Dalrymple Bay and Hay Point coal terminals near Mackay, Queensland Resources Council Chief Executive Michael Roche said today it was time that increasingly hysterical claims by environmental activists were brought to book.
‘We have two debates running over the future health of the Great Barrier Reef,’ Mr Roche said.
‘One reflects the genuine concerns of all Australians to ensure the values of an iconic World Heritage Area are protected.
‘The other is an opportunistic attempt by extremely well-funded international activists to deflect attention from the real threats to the reef’s health by demonising Queensland’s major export industries.
‘Anyone with a passing interest in the reef and its recent history knows from documented scientific evidence that ports and shipping through the reef do not represent major threats to its ecological integrity.
‘Every credible scientific report published on Great Barrier Reef health has named Crown of Thorns starfish outbreaks, water quality and extreme weather events as the real culprits.
‘Neither an increase in shipping traffic nor decades of port dredging has been scientifically recorded as contributing to coral cover loss or a historical decline in the environmental health of the reef.’
Mr Roche said Australia led the world in shipping management, with recently boosted navigation services through automated position reporting, an automatic ship identification system and decision-support tools mandated for use along the length of the Great Barrier Reef.
‘Despite a substantial increase in ship movements since 1996, the REEFVTS system operated from Townsville has reduced groundings from one per year to just one in the decade since its introduction.
‘Those are the unadorned facts and we think it’s about time Australians and overseas visitors were made aware of them – in advance of the next federal election and UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee review of the Great Barrier Reef’s status next June.’
Mr Roche said the only people advocating the Great Barrier Reef be declared ‘in danger’ were environmental activists misrepresenting the impact of Queensland’s leading export industries.
‘Their current target is export coal and gas but it’s unlikely they will care about collateral damage such as rural exporters or the people of central and north Queensland who rely on imports of goods through 11 commercial trading ports in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.’
Mr Roche said that the activists’ latest bogeyman is port dredging, because if they can halt dredging they know they can shut down export ports.
‘Ports along the Queensland coast have been established, expanded and kept open by many decades of environmentally responsible dredging, he said.
‘None of this dredging has involved interference with coral reefs.
‘For example, the most recent dredging program for the expansion of capacity at Hay Point was lauded in an independent review conducted for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority as having successfully met the environmental goals set for the program and resulted in no significant environmental impact.’
The focus of the QRC public awareness campaign is a large fold-out map of the Great Barrier Reef including major mainland ports and the constantly monitored channels through which shipping moves. The reverse side features information about the reef, shipping safety measures, port dredging and major threats to reef health identified by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Australian Institute of Marine Science.
‘Queensland’s exporters and port operators are acutely aware that if they fail in their duty of environmental care on the Great Barrier Reef, they fail the people of Queensland,’ Mr Roche said.
The brochure and map is supported by a dedicated portal on the Queensland Resources Council website (click on tile to right) called Working Alongside the Great Barrier Reef.
Press Release, July 25, 2013